Introduction The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) was established by amending Article 338 and inserting a new Article 338A in the Constitution through the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003. By this amendment, the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two separate Commissions namely- (i) the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), and (ii) the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) w.e.f. 19 February, 2004. Background Certain Communities suffering from Extreme Social & Economic Backwardness- like Untouchability Primitive Agri-Practices, Lack of Infrastructural facilities, Geographical Isolation- needed special consideration for safeguarding their interests; These communities were notified as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as per provisions of Art. 341(1) and 342(1) of the Constitution respectively; Under the original provisions of Art.338 of the Constitution, Special Officer (Commissioner) for SC&ST appointed was assigned the duty to investigate all matters relating to the Safeguards for SCs and STs in various Statutes and to report to the President upon the working of these Safeguards; To facilitate working of the Commissioner for (SCs&STs),17 Regional Offices were set up in different parts of the Country; In 1978 the Govt. (through a Resolution) decided to set up a Multi-Member Commission (Non-Statutory) for SCs and STs with Sh. Bhola Paswan Shastri as Chairperson and having 4 Members (with 3 year tenure ); Office of Commissioner for SCs & STs also Continued to exist; The 17 Regional Offices earlier transferred to DG (Backward Classes Welfare), were brought back under the control of the new Multi Member Commission; In 1987, the Govt. (through another Resolution) modified functions of the Commission (making it as a National Level Advisory Body) to advise the Govt. on Broad Policy Issues and levels of Development of SCs and STs; The statutory National Commission for SCs & STs came into being on 12-3-92 (after the Constitutiona (65th )Amendment); Act 1990. Notified on 8-6-1990), it was headed by Sh. Ram Dhan as Chairperson and had Sh. Bandi Oraon as VC, Sh. B. Sammaiah, Dr. Sanojni Mahishi, Chaudhary Hari Singh, Sh..N. Brahma and Sh. Jina Bhai Darjee as Members, replacing the Special Officer for SCs and STc. The 2nd Commission was constituted on 5-10-95 with Sh..H. Hanumanthappa as Chairperson Smt. Omem Moyong Deori as VC and Sh. N.C. Chaturvedi, Sh. Anand Mohan Biswas, Ven. Lama Lobzang, Sh. Nar Singh Baitha, and Sh. B. Yadaiah as Members; The 3rd Commission was constituted in Dec-1998 comprising Sh. Dileep Singh Bhuria as Chairperson, Sh. Kameshwar Paswan as VC, and Sh. Harinder Singh Khalsa, Ven Lama Lobzang, Sh. Chhotray Majhi, Sh.M. Kannan, Smt. Veena Nayyar as Members. On resignation of Sh. M. Kannan, Sh. C. Chellapan became Member; The 4th Commission was constituted in March 2002 comprising Dr. Vijay Sonkar Shastri as Chairperson, Ven Lamma Chosphel Zotpa as VC, and Sh. Vijay Kumar Chaudhary, Sh. Narayan Singh Kesari, Sh. Tapir Gao as Members, while Smt. Veena Nayyar and Sr. C. Chellapan continued till completion of their respective tenures of 3yrs. In Aug, 02, Smt. Veena Prem Kumar also became a member in place of Smt. Veena Nayyar. On completion of term by Sh. Chellapan, Sh. Sampath Kumar became Member on 30-9-2003;Consequent upon implementation of the provision of the Constitution (89th) Amendment Act.2003, as per notification dated 19-2-2004, the Erstwhile National Commission for SC & ST was replaced by two Commissions viz; National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST). The composition of the first National Commission for Scheduled included Sh. Kunwar Singh as Chairperson (w.e.f 15/3/04) Sh. Gajendra Singh Rajukheri as Vice- Chairperson (w.e.f 29.05.06), Ven. Lama Lobzang (w.e.f.2-3-04) Smt. Prema Bai Mandavi (w.e.f 4.3.04) Sh. Buduru Srinivasulu (w.e.f 11.3.04) as Members. Chairperson,V.C. and Members have a tenure of 3 years each. Chairperson has the status of Union Cabinet Minister, while V.C has the status of Minister of State and Members have the Status of Secretary to Government of India. Shri Kunwar Singh, resigned from his post in February, 2007 and Shri Gajendra Singh Rajukheri resigned in May 2007 while other Members demitted their office after completion of their tenure in March 2007. The second commission comprised of Smt. Urmila Singh, Chairperson, (assumed office from 18.06.2007 to 24.01.2010), Shri Maurice Kujur, Vice Chairperson, (assumed office on 25.04.2008 to 24.04.2011), Shri Tsering Samphel, Member (assumed office from 14.06.2007 to 13.06.2010) and Shri Oris Syiem Myriaw, Member, (assumed office on 17.04.2008 to 16.04.2011). Approach and Methodology Keeping in view its Constitutional obligations and the issues that are now critical, after almost half a century of independence, for the overall development and mainstreaming of the Scheduled Tribes, the present Commission, constituted in February, 2004 has adopted a more vigorous approach in its functioning. The meetings of the Commission are held regularly and the implementation of decisions taken is monitored keenly. In order to monitor and evaluate the impact of development schemes, the Commission has decided to interact with the State/UT Governments more actively by holding State level review meetings with the Chief Secretaries and other senior officers and conducting field level visits. The Commission feels that as a result of these visits and meetings, the State/UT Governments will become more conscious of the genuine problems of the Scheduled Tribes and would take the necessary initiative in working out remedial measures and adopting appropriate strategies. The Commission, through its Headquarters and State Offices has also conducted field level inquiries and studies. This process has been given a renewed vigour with a view to ensure prompt relief, especially in matters, relating to crimes and atrocities on Scheduled Tribes and the grant of development benefits. The procedure for investigating into complaints, especially with reference to violation of service safeguards, has also been streamlined to ensure prompt and speedy disposal of cases and relief in genuine cases. By calling officers and concerned Liaison Officers to the Commission with all relevant records, many long pending cases are being decided in one or two sittings. The Commission has also used its powers of Civil Court to summon documents and enforcing attendance in conducting the inquiries. The Commission is of the view that it is only through proper planning and effective implementation of appropriate schemes for development that the Scheduled Tribes can hope to catch up with the rest of the population and realize their full potential. The Commission has, thus, made a beginning by actively associating itself and participating in the planning process at the National and State levels. Regular communication is being maintained with the Planning Commission, Ministry of Tribal Affairs and the State/UT Governments. The Annual Plans of the Central Ministries, States and UT Governments are being analysed in the Commission to this end with the support of its State Offices. Organizational Chart The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes functions from its Headquarters at New Delhi and from the Regional Offices of the Commission located in six States. There are following six Units at the Hqrs.: Administration Coordination Unit Research Unit-I Research Unit – II Research Unit-III Research Unit-IV The main functional units are Research Unit-I, Research Unit-II, Research Unit-III, Research Unit-IV, which deal with all matters pertaining to socio-economic and educational development, service safeguards and atrocities in relation to STs as per distribution of the Ministries/ Departments (including CPSEs and other Organisation/ Offices under their administrative control) and the States and UTs among these four Research Units. There are 6 Regional offices of the National Commission for Scheduled tribes which work as ‘eyes and ears’ of the Commission. They keep a watch on the formulation of policy and issue of guidelines relating to the welfare of Scheduled Tribes in the States/UTs and keep the Commission’s Headquarters informed about the developments periodically. Policy decisions taken by any State Government/UT Administration affecting the interests of the Scheduled Tribes are brought to the notice of the concerned authorities for necessary action. For Organisation Chart (23.8KB) Functions of the Commission (Under Clause (5) of Art. 338A) To investigate & Monitor matters relating to Safeguards provided for STs under the Constitution or under other laws or under Govt. Order, to evaluate the working of such Safeguards. To inquire into specific complaints relating to Rights & Safeguards of STs; To participate and advise in the Planning Process relating to Socio-economic development of STs, and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State; To submit report to the President annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, upon/ working of Safeguards, Measures required for effective implementation of Programmers/ Schemes relating to Welfare and Socio-economic development of STs; To discharge such other functions in relation to STs as the President may, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament, by rule specify; The Commission would also discharge the following other functions in relation to the protection, welfare and development & advancement of the Scheduled Tribes, namely:- Measures that need to be taken over conferring ownership rights in respect of minor forest produce to the Scheduled Tribes living in forest areas. Measures to be taken to safeguard rights to the Tribal Communities over mineral resources, water resources etc. as per law. Measures to be taken for the development of tribals and to work for move viable livelihood strategies. Measures to be taken to improve the efficacy of relief and rehabilitation measures for tribal groups displaced by development projects. Measures to be taken to prevent alienation of tribal people from land and to effectively rehabilitate such people in whose case alienation has already taken place. Measures to be taken to elicit maximum cooperation and involvement of Tribal Communities for protecting forests and undertaking social afforestation. Measures to be taken to ensure full implementation of the Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (40 of 1996). Measures to be taken to reduce and ultimately eliminate the practice of shifting cultivation by Tribals that lead to their continuous disempowerment and degradation of land and the environment Powers of the Commission (Under Clause (8) of Art. 338A) For Investigation and Inquiry, the Commission is vested with powers of a civil court having authority to: Summon and enforce attendance of any person and examine on oath; Discovery & production of any documents; Receive evidence on affidavits; Requisition any public record or copy thereof from any court or office; Issue Commissions for examination of witnesses and documents; and Any matter which President, by rule, may determine. Consultations by Union and States (Under Clause (9) of Art. 338A) Union and every State Govt. to consult the Commission on all major Policy matters affecting Scheduled Tribes. Constitutional Safeguards for STs EDUCATIONAL & CULTURAL SAFEGUARDS Art. 15(4) – Special provisions for advancement of other backward classes (which includes STs); Art. 29 – Protection of Interests of Minorities (which includes STs); Art. 46 – The State shall promote, with special care, the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes, and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation, Art. 350 – Right to conserve distinct Language, Script or Culture; Art. 350 – Instruction in Mother Tongue. SOCIAL SAFEGUARD Art. 23 – Prohibition of traffic in human beings and beggar and other similar form of forced labour Art. 24 – Forbidding Child Labour. ECONOMIC SAFEGUARDS Art.244 – Clause(1) Provisions of Fifth Schedule shall apply to the administration & control of the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in any State other than the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura which are covered under Sixth Schedule, under Clause (2) of this Article. Art. 275 – Grants in-Aid to specified States (STs &SAs) covered under Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution. POLITICAL SAFEGUARDS Art.164 (1) – Provides for Tribal Affairs Ministers in Bihar, MP and Orissa Art. 330 – Reservation of seats for STs in Lok Sabha Art. 337 – Reservation of seats for STs in State Legislatures Art. 334 – 10 years period for reservation (Amended several times to extend the period Art. 243 – Reservation of seats in Panchayats Art. 371 – Special provisions in respect of NE States and Sikkim Safeguards under Various laws The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,1989 and the Rules 1995 framed there under. Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 (in respect of Scheduled Tribes); The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act1986; States Acts & Regulations concerning alienation & restoration of land belonging to STs; Forest Conservation Act 1980; Panchayatiraj (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996; Minimum Wages Act 1948.